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Does shear wall blocking need to match the depth of the studs to which it is attached? Can it be oriented flat-wise with the wide face against the sheathing joint?

There is no requirement that shear wall panel edge blocking match the depth of the wall studs, nor is there a requirement that it be oriented in the same axis as the wall studs.

Shear wall blocking can be narrower than the adjacent studs (i.e. 2×4 blocking in a 2×6 wall) or rotated 90 degrees (oriented with the wide face of the blocking attached to the sheathing panel edges), provided the following conditions are met:

  1. The blocking is 2x nominal or greater as required in the American Wood Council’s Special Design Provisions for Wind and Seismic (SDPWS) section
  2. The minimum nail penetration of the panel edge fasteners into the blocking (per SDPWS Table 4.3A) is still obtained.